In its research and training program the RS will give special attention to the acquisition of linguistic and social skills. They are key competences with respect to chances and obstacles of institutional and societal participation and therefore constitute the basis for the development of almost all capabilities. Thus, they prototypically represent the hinge between individual resources and institutional malfunctioning due to inefficient language use and linguistic and social capacities, which is addressed by CA. Thus, they provide a central field of empirical research. In line with the state of the art in linguistics and research on language acquisition, the RS conceptualizes linguistic abilities in a broad sense: that is, as comprising oral and written performances, basic use of graphemic systems as well as text production/reception, and mastery of all structural levels of language including the discourse level in first and second as well as foreign languages. A newly founded study group Literacy between Languages and Cultures, financed by the VW-Foundation at the Technische Universität Dortmund, is part of the relevant research context for the doctoral studies on these topics.
In addition and relation to linguistic abilities the RS focuses on social competences. From a capabilities’ perspective they are a fundament for communicating and interacting with others in an appropriate and meaningful manner but also for the development of a young person’s agency, i.e. his or her actual ability to pursue and realize change with respect to his/her own life as well as with respect to his/her social environment in a way s/he has reason to value.
Social as well as linguistic competencies are not merely individual features. Rather they are both generated and mediated in social processes of socialization, education, and training processes. Social and linguistic competencies constitute the major element of life skills, as they refer to interactive relations and reflexive relationships with others. They build the basis to develop capabilities that enable us to participate in social contexts.